Autumn is nature’s natural time for planting, which means it’s also the ideal time for you to be out there adding to your garden.
November and December are the perfect time to plant trees and although planting is not a difficult or time consuming job, it’s worth putting in some preparation and getting it right to ensure your young tree survives and thrives to give you pleasure for many years to come.
When planting trees, whether bare root or rootballed, the most important considerations are root health, weather, soil conditions and aftercare.
In heavy or sandy soils you can prepare for planting by adding organic matter and if the soil is waterlogged you may need to consider trees that are better suited to the location or planting on a small mound to lift it away.
To prepare for planting, loosen the soil to a depth equivalent to the height of the root ball and over a wide area to improve drainage and allow the roots to spread.
Ideally the hole should be no deeper than the roots but at least three times the diameter of the root system.
Remove the plant from its container or fabric wrapping. You may want to trim potbound roots and spread the roots of bare-root plants to get an idea of their spread, but there is no need to trim or tease roots from rootballs that are not potbound.
It is worth soaking bare-rooted trees for about 30 minutes before planting and ensuring container trees are given a good watering in their pots.
You are then ready to place the tree in the planting hole and position it so the top roots are level with the soil surface. You may need to scrape away the compost from container trees to see where the top level of roots are.
Planting at this level means air is able to reach the root system and helps to prevent disease affecting the lower trunk.
Insert a stake if required and refill the hole carefully, placing soil between and around all the roots and then firm the soil gently and water in.
Fertilisers do not need to be added at planting time, but can be used a season after planting if required.
Once planted, you just need to keep an eye on the tree as it establishes to ensure it is neither drying out or getting waterlogged and that it is thriving.
You may want to consider protecting your new tree from hungry garden visitors such as rabbits or deer with chicken wire.
In the Spring you may also need to check that any ties are not constricting the stem and after two seasons, the tree should be well enough established that any stakes can be removed.